If you doubt whether Republicans are serious about defeating Hillary Clinton,
consider this: At a California meeting last week headed by billionaire
industrialists Charles and David Koch, an $889 million budget was unveiled
before the network of conservative donors they assembled.
Some have gone so far as to suggest this essentially makes the Koch network
America’s “third” political party. After all, their warchest constitutes
more than double what the Republican National Committee spent during the
last presidential cycle.
If you’re not familiar with the Koch brothers (pronounced like Coke), you
should be. Thought of primarily as an oil company, Koch Industries produces
a plethora of American household items, ranging from Dixie cups to Brawny
paper towels. Politically, the brothers also help fund some of the most
powerful conservative and libertarian organizations in the nation, like
Americans for Prosperity and the Cato Institute. For this, they are hated by
the American Left. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has made it his
business to demonize the duo, once going so far as to call them
But despite the Left’s efforts, the brothers from Kansas remain both enigmatic
and philanthropic, patronising the arts and cancer research as much as
In 2012, for example, David Koch donated $35 million to the National Museum of
Natural History for a dinosaur exhibit. Just last year, the brothers donated
$25 million to the United Negro College Fund. What is more, David Koch
describes himself as a “social liberal,” who publicly supports gay marriage,
is anti-war, supports marijuana legalisation, is pro-prison reform, and
supports abortion rights. A visit to the Koch-funded American for Prosperity
Foundation website urges people to: “Join us to learn practical skills such
as: couponing, budgeting, business, nutrition and much more, while fostering
a sense of community.”
To say they are shrewd would be an understatement. Most well-heeled donors
hoping to influence policy would play both sides of the field, and generally
hide behind lobbyists. Even those who have enough chutzpah to try to buy
elections usually just hire a top-tier political consultant, and then pay
them millions to produce TV ads. But ads are ephemeral, and the Kochs
reportedly plan to direct much of their money toward analytics, polling, and
grassroots organising – infrastructure that won’t expire on Election Day in
November of 2016.
So what motivates them? Their driving force is to save free market capitalism
by defeating onerous job-killing regulations, halting the liberal push for
collectivism, and fending off violations on individual liberty.
But while this eye-popping amount of cash they plan to spend on campaigns is
sure to evoke plenty of stories about the evils of rich people buying
elections, plenty of rich men have tried, and failed, to do just that. Note
also that Democrats actually took in more reportable money in 2014, with
liberal Tom Steyer ponying up $74.3 million. Goldman Sachs, a top Wall
Street investment firm, was a huge contributor to Barack Obama.
So what about the dangers of “dark money?” Unlike political parties, the Koch
network consists of groups which can receive unlimited donations – and whose
donors do not have to be disclosed. But is this so-called ominous dark money
any different then all of the undisclosed money teacher, public employee and
labors unions provide? The irony is that well-intentioned, but naive efforts
to reform the campaign finance system have led to unintended consequences,
creating the very outside groups we are now told to despise.
So we’re left with a system where a lot of rich donors can give big money
anonymously. You can imagine why they wouldn’t want to give this up. And
now, pointing to the scandal whereby the IRS targeted conservative groups,
many Republican donors have legitimate reasons to preserve their anonymity:
fear of reprisal.
The lesson, it seems, is that if people want to spend money on politics,
they’re going to find a way to do it. That’s why, instead of pursuing the
impossible task of stopping it, we should instead allow for unlimited
contributions — but demand transparency in the form of disclosure posted on
the Internet within 24-hours of receipt. Rich people should be able to give
what they want, but they should also have the courage of their convictions.
So give all you want, but put your name on it. It’s a tribute to the Koch
brothers that they aren’t afraid to do just that.
*Matt K. Lewis is a senior contributor at The Daily Caller website in
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